Billy Donovan may not have been able to bring in top guard recruits Brandon Knight and Ray McCallum, but the Gators are still actively pursuing players to help fill out their backcourt.
Knight and McCallum signed with Kentucky and Detroit Mercy, respectively, so Donovan is focusing on other options — both transfers and recruits, a few of whom will visit Gainesville this weekend.
According to SNY.tv, Mike Rosario, who was recently granted a conditional release from Rutgers, will make an official visit to Florida this weekend.
“If he’s going to leave [Rutgers] because he’s not happy with his individual development, Billy Donovan is very good at developing players,” Bob Hurley, Rosario’s high school coach, told SNY.tv.
Rosario, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 16.7 points per game last season, will have to sit out next year due to transfer rules, but he has the ability to be an immediate contributor wherever he goes.
Donovan has expressed his desire to fix his backcourt for next year, though, so he is also pursuing point guard recruits for 2010.
“We’ve been actively recruiting players all year long,” Donovan said. “I think it all depends on the fit and the need, and is it someone we feel is going to be able to contribute over a period of time.”
Chris Denson, a Rivals.com three-star point guard from Midland, Ga., will also be in Gainesville over the weekend, according to the Orlando Sentinel.. The 6-foot-2 Denson is also considering Auburn, Villanova, UNLV and North Carolina Greensboro.
“He can play at a high-major level. I think he would really thrive at the mid-major level. He’s one of those bubble guys,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said.
UF is also interested in 6-foot-2 Brandon Young from Baltimore, Md., who Rivals.com lists as the 33rd-best point guard in the nation. Young is committed to DePaul, but he will likely be looking to make a move after Oliver Purnell replaced former coach Jerry Wainwright.
Young has skyrocketed up recruiting boards recently, going from an unheralded prospect to one of the more intriguing unsigned point guards remaining.
Another guard option looking to get out of his current commitment is Jalen Steele, a 6-foot-2 guard who was released from his letter-of-intent with Auburn last week.
Steele signed with Auburn in November, but he has received a lot of attention from other Southeastern Conference schools, particularly Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Meyer said Steele is another fringe, mid-major to high-major recruit, but given UF’s inability to land top-tier guards like Knight and McCallum, that’s the most the Gators can hope for in the late signing period, which ends May 19.
“That’s the big question with all these guys that Florida is left to recruit now. Not that they’re bad players. Just that they’re not definite high-major prospects,” Meyer said. “They have definite flaws as prospects. Sometimes those flaws can be overcome and these guys are great, and then there’s other times they don’t, so it’s a very difficult call.”
UF is also interested in two 6-foot-7 forwards, Will Yeguete and Marcus Thornton.
Meyer said Thornton, a three-star forward from Atlanta, will probably stay close to home and sign with Georgia or Georgia Tech, or be reeled in by Kentucky coach John Calipari. Yeguete, a forward from Melbourne Florida Air Academy, is the more likely option for UF, Meyer said.
Regardless, the top priority for the Gators remains bringing in another guard to relieve Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, especially after Ray Shipman’s decision to transfer.
If this offseason is a repeat of last year, when UF missed on John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and several other guards before signing Rod Tishman, Donovan will again find himself with depth issues in the backcourt.
“They can function — Walker and Boynton will be better as playmakers than they were last year,” Meyer said. “But I think it’s safe to say it would be a disappointment. Florida really wanted to get a quality point guard, and it’s looking questionable if that’s going to happen now.”